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Cherry blossoms in the New Yoshiwara
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Cherry blossoms in the New Yoshiwara
Work Type
colour woodcuts, oban, nishiki-e
colour woodcut
Frame: 371mm (width), 503mm (height)

Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825), also often referred to as Toyokuni I, to distinguish him from the members of his school who took over his (art-name) after he died, was a great master of ukiyo-e, known in particular for his kabuki actor prints (yakusha-e). He was the second head of the renowned Utagawa school of Japanese woodblock artists, and was the artist who really moved it to the position of great fame and power it occupied for the rest of the 19th century.

This rare and important print is not a yakusha-e; rather, it draws on the conventions of Yamato-e scenes of daily life, though the correct genre here would be a nigao-e scene of 'true-view' realism. The rightmost panel of a pentaptych (five-sheet) print suggests that the other panels recorded the carefully choreographed procession of the oiran dochu. The dochu (procession) was performed four times during the year, to coincide with the change of seasons. It offered the oiran (high class courtesans) of the notorious Yoshiwara licensed quarters of Edo a rare opportunity to move beyond their cloistered words, and gave the public a chance to view beauties much celebrated in bijinga-e prints of beautiful women, including those by Toyokuni himself. In this instance, the oiran and their 'younger sister' kamuro and yūjo prostitutes are jostled by touts, a delivery boy and norimono 'palanquin' carriers as they pass through Yoshiwara Omon, the Great Gate of Yoshiwara. Toyokuni's viewers would have delighted in the carefully observed variety of dress, pose and gesture of each character in the composition.


David Bell and Mark Stocker, 'Rising sun at Te Papa: the Heriot collection of Japanese art',

Wikipedia, 'Utagawa Toyokuni',

Dr Mark Stocker Curator, Historical International Art May 2019

Collection: Art
Purchased 2016
Accession Number
Image and original data provided by Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa
Use of this image is in accordance with the Artstor Terms & Conditions
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